Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has inaugurated the breakthrough event of Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana through video conference mode.
- Border Roads Organisation (BRO) achieved this major milestone by digging up a 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).
- The construction of tunnel was a challenging task in terms of weak soil strata, continuous water seepage, heavy built up area on top thereby chances of sinking of houses, land acquisition issues, restrictions during COVID lockdown etc.
- It is a Horse shoe type tunnel with 10 mtr carriage way width and 5.5 mtr vertical clearance.
What is Chardham Pariyojana?
- The project proposes the widening of single lane roads into double lanes by up to 10 metres (880-km all-weather roads) developing highways in Uttarakhand and thereby improving access to the Char Dham (four shrines) — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedar Nath and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
- The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs 11,700 crore.
- The project was earlier scheduled to be completed by March 2020.
- Seven stretches have been identified for development under the Char Dham highway project.
- All of these four sites are devoted to a specific deity. Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the 12 jyotirlingas and Badrinath, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Environmental concerns –
- The project evoked widespread concern among environmentalists and has been challenged in the courts.
- Environmentalist groups, led by the Dehradun-based Citizens for Green Doon, had filed petitions last February in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) contending that the project was proceeding without environmental clearances and debris was being disposed haphazardly.
- The fragile Himalayan hills slopes were being cut open indiscriminately and the project posed an environmental threat.
- On September 26, 2018, the NGT ruled that an environmental clearance wasn’t required and allowed the project to proceed but with several caveats. But it stated the project would cause irreversible damage to regional ecology.
- A seven-member committee of experts led by a former judge of the Uttarakhand court was to ensure that an environmental management plan would be in place and properly adhered to.
- Supreme Court on technical grounds stayed the NGT nod for the project.
- On August 8, 2019, the Supreme court backed portions of the Tribunal’s order allowing the project to continue with assessment by an independent committee.
In July, China will launch its first Mars Mission, the ‘Tianwen-1’ which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021. The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States.
About Tianwen-1 –
- Named after the ancient Chinese poem ‘Questions to Heaven’, the Tianwen-1, an all-in-one orbiter, lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among competing other objectives.
- The Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution. Two candidate landing sites have been identified, one of them being Utopia Planitia.
Previous Mars’ Missions –
- The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing. The country made its second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.
- The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the most number of Mars landings. Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
- India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
Why study Mars?
- After the Moon, the most number of space missions in the Solar System have been to Mars. Despite being starkly different in many ways, the Red Planet has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
- For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life. In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
- This has made space explorers more curious about whether the planet can sustain life. Newer NASA missions have since transitioned from their earlier strategy of “Follow the Water” to “Seek Signs of Life”.
To explore definitive archaeological evidences that may put an end to speculations regarding the birthplace of Purandara Dasa, hailed as father figure of Carnatic music, the Department of Archaeology, Heritage and Museums will soon commence field research work at Keshavapura in Araga Grama Panchayat of Tirthahalli taluk in Karnataka.
Who was Purandara Dasa?
- Purandara Dāsa (1484 – 1565) of Haridasa movement, was a renowned composer of Carnatic music, a Vaishnava poet, a saint and a social reformer.
- He was a disciple of the Dvaita philosopher-saint Vyasatirtha.
- Purandara Dasa was a wealthy merchant of gold, silver and other miscellaneous jewellery from Karnataka, who gave away all his material riches to become a Haridasa (literally meaning a servant of Lord Hari or Lord Krishna).
- As a devotional singer he made the difficult Sanskrit tenets of Srimad Bhagavatam available to everyone in simple and melodious songs.
- He formulated the basic lessons of teaching Carnatic music by structuring graded exercises known as Svaravalis and Alankaras, and at the same time, he introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the first scale to be learnt by beginners in the field – a practice that is still followed today.
- In honour of his significant contributions to Carnatic music, he is widely referred to as the “father” of Carnatic music.
- Purandara Dasa is noted for composing Dasa Sahithya, as a Bhakti movement vocalist, and a music scholar.
What is the controversy?
- As ‘Purandara Vithala’ was the pen name of his compositions, it was widely believed that the mystic poet was born in Purandharagad, Maharashtra. However, many in Malnad claimed that he hailed from this region.
- According to historians, Araga in Malnad was a buzzing commercial centre during the Vijayanagar rule, the period to which the poet belonged to. Prior to his initiation to Haridasa tradition, Purandara Dasa was a rich merchant and was called as Srinivasa Nayaka.
- Referring to this, the proponents of the theory that Puranadara Dasa was born in Malnad point out that ‘Nayaka’ title was attributed to locally influential people, including wealthy merchants in Malnad during the Vijayanagar rule.
- To solve the mystery regarding the birthplace, the State government had directed Kannada University, Hampi, to form an expert committee. After visiting Keshavapura and surrounding places, the committee members said there was enough evidence to come to the conclusion that the devotional poet was born here. The committee had recommended that further research be conducted on the issue.
India Observatory, an open-source database, has come up with a GIS-enabled dashboard that includes an India map reflecting the movement of migrants in real time on their long journeys, often on foot, along with facilities and relief organisation on their routes.
How does it work?
- The platform, a collaboration with Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand as its main nodal point, is called CoAST India (Collaboration/Covid Action Support Group).
- It draws information from 55 organisations on the ground, mostly in villages, and aims to make such data available so that it would enable governments and small local civil society groups to be of assistance.
- The map matches “time and spatial data, on administrative facilities in the area, transportation and healthcare facilities of an area and summaries, on the fly, in real time of people passing by.
India Observatory was set up in December 2019, with FES focused on ecological issues about forests, water bodies, conservation, etc. that needed “a bird’s eye view or a satellite’s vision”.
Indian Meteorological Department has recently issued ‘red alert’ over the prevailing heat waves over Northwestern and Central India.
What is a ‘heat wave’?
- A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India.
- Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
- The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
IMD definition of ‘Heat Wave’ –
- Heat Wave need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
- When the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5°C to 6°C and Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7°C or more.
- When the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, Heat Wave Departure from normal is 4°C to 5°C and Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6°C or more.
- When the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared.
What causes ‘heat wave’?
- Generally, global warming is attributed as the major cause of heat waves, however, the reason behind it is unclear.
- Studies have linked an increase in heat waves to more increase in El Nino events, or years marked by an anomalous heating in the Central Pacific Ocean which leads to a weakening of the Indian monsoon.
- The Indian Ocean temperatures are also rising faster than the other oceans, and this, too, may be reducing moisture over the Indian mainland, thus playing some part in longer stretches of hot days.
- Deforestation, the heat-island effect, and industrial pollution are also being blamed for exacerbating heat waves.
- According to the MET Department, the presence of an anti-cyclonic circulation over south Pakistan and neighbouring regions is the reason behind the hot winds prevailing over the entire northwest India.
Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna
Recently, a a NASA experiment has indicated the possibility of a parallel universe. ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna or ANITA – an experiment maintained by researchers at NASA – has suddenly come into the limelight as the cosmic-ray shower that is key to the new discovery was a part of NASA’s ANITA and IceCube experiment taking place in Antarctica.
What is ANITA?
- It is an experiment that is maintained by NASA. It involves an array of radio antennas attached to a helium balloon which flies over the Antarctic ice sheet at 37,000 meters. To get a gauge of exactly how high is that, know that commercial flights fly almost a fourth of that height.
- The height is important here to shut out all other “noises” so that the ANITA antennas can “listen” to the cosmos and detect high-energy particles, known as neutrinos, which constantly bombard the planet.
What are neutrinos?
- Neutrinos are high-energy particles that pose no threat to us and pass through most solid objects without anyone even noticing.
- Neutrinos constantly bombard Earth and as per some estimates emerging from studies, 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second!
- Rarely do they interact with matter. But if they do smash into an atom, they produce a shower of secondary particles we can detect, which allows us to probe where they came from in the universe.
- ANITA detects neutrinos pinging in from space and colliding with matter in the Antarctic ice sheet.
What has ANITA found?
- Instead of the high-energy neutrinos streaming in from space, they seem to have come from a strange angle, through the Earth’s interior, before hitting the detector.
- When ANITA reported signals that looked like extremely high-energy neutrinos, physicists were puzzled. These neutrinos had arrived at an angle that suggested they had just travelled through most of the planet, which is not expected for neutrinos at these energies.”